Grimdark Magazine is an ezine I very much enjoy. I'm a big fan of grimdark storytelling and I think this magazine is contributing a lot to getting the term to become more accepted as a code for dark, gritty fantasy fiction. I don't think grimdark is going to replace terms like low fantasy, sword and sorcery, or even dark fantasy as terminology but it sounds good as well as gives a hint to the reader that no punches are going to be pulled.
One thing I'd also like to mention about this magazine is it's one of the few ones I'm reading where I actually follow up on its recommendations. I've purchased copies of the Dark Defies, Prince of Thorns, and Joe Abercrombie books based on its recommendations. I don't normally do that because nothing jumps out at me.
So this is a nice change of pace.
This is the cover I've enjoyed most out of the three I've seen from the fanzine. It's dark, gritty, and eye-catching. I don't think it really has much to do with anything inside of the magazine but that isn't always the case. Whatever the case, it was part of what inspired me to pick up all of the magazine's issues when I first saw it.
I've mentioned it before that it's the Non-Fiction section of the magazine for which I bought them. As nice as I find the short stories within, I really want to get the latest news and editorials about the developing genre. Honestly, I wish they'd up the number of essays and articles as they deserve some more space.
Or maybe I'm just greedy.
"Grit in My Controller: Grimdark in Gaming" by Layla Cummins and Jeremy Szal was going to be a hard sell to me, though, because I run a video game review site. So if you're going to talk abour grim and gritty video games, no list is really going to suffice. I agreed with quite a few of the choices, especially the Witcher 2, Fallout 3, Metro 2033, and Dragon Age but felt some others were forced. The Wolf Among Us, for example, was fantasy Noir rather than grimdark. However, I still really enjoyed it and wouldn't have minded it becoming a section of the magazine. I'd love to see these two review some games they think are sufficiently dark and twisted.
An interview with R. Scott Bakker was humorous and well-spoken from a long-time gamer. Any man who uses the term grognard in common parlace instantly wins my respect. There's a somewhat bizarre digression about Aristotle and the theory of consciousness but, really, I've read stranger interviews. Another Interview with Luke Scull gives more insight into his writing and what he hoped to achieve with his Grim Company books. I, confess, I'm intrigued by them simply by the part of his interview where he describes a hero as a genuinely heroic figure who just happens to be kind of an a******.
The review section of the magazine reviews Sword of the North by Luke Skull and Dirge by Tim Marquitz. The Sword of the North review was somewhat critical while Dirge was treated more kindly. Personally, having read Dirge, I heartily endorse it and think most grimdark fans would love all of Tim Marquitz's writing.
"A Recipe for Corpse Oil" by Siobhan Gallagher is one of those rare combinations of stories I'm very fond of: it is both hilariously funny and disturbingly dark as well as twisted. A mugger in the streets is hired by an apothecary to collect human chins to make corpse oil. He doesn't hesitate about this since it's not murder--and, well, you'll have to read the rest of the story to find out what happens. 10/10
"All the Lovely Brides" by Kelly Sandoval is a twist on the old "virgin sacrifice" storyline, only the women aren't virgins but wedded to a hungry god who devours them after a few years of marriage. The latest woman in this particular long line of dutiful obedient wives comes up with an interesting solution to the problem. One which, honestly, I kind of approve of. 10/10
"The Knife of Many Hands Part 2" (The Second Apocalypse/Atrocity Tales) by R. Scott Bakker is the sequel to the first installment of the series in Grimdark Magazine 2#. The Queen of the City invites our two-hearted hero to join her in sexual bliss at the palace. Which, given she's quite beautiful, doesn't seem at all like a problem. You know, except for the fact our protagonist is psychotic. How it ends is not at all that unexpected given nothing ever works out for our heroes in grimdark. 8/10
"The King Beneath the Waves" by Peter Fugazzotto is a Viking ghost story involving a haunted funeral barge, two slaves, and a group of shipwrecked raiders. Honestly, the ghost is almost incidental compared to the cruelty and greed of our protagonists. My sympathies were probably a bit more with the old slave than was intended, though, I suspect. Either way, it is a haunting and fascinating little tale. 9/10
We also have a pair of excerpts from Dark Run by Mike Brooks and Sword of the North by Luke Skull. The first is a Mad Max science-fiction Western which is little more than a bar fight but has a very-very evocative atmosphere. The second is about how the protagonist was recruited as a child to become a soldier. Both serve well enough in getting me interested in their subject matter, though the latter more so than the first.
As always, I heartily recommend this magazine.
Buy at Grimdark Magazine's website